This week's Torah portion describes how a mob of Jews instigated the rest of the people to protest against Moses. Dissatisfied with their desert diet of manna, the people demanded meat. In fact, they complained that they missed the taste of the foods they had freely enjoyed in Egypt. In a striking case of ingratitude, they blamed Moses for taking them out of slavery and leaving them to wander in the desert.
They seemed to forget the suffering they had so recently experienced in Egypt, the miracles, the plagues on the Egyptians, the splitting of the sea. All they could remember were the fish and the melons they had consumed as slaves!
Moses, however, rather than reacting in anger, actually defended the people before G-d. “Six hundred thousand people on foot are the people in whose midst I am.” In other words, they and I are like one body. If You will decree destruction upon them, I will be left like a head without a body!
Moses, the faithful shepherd of the Jewish people, embodied the optimal relationship between a leader and his people; he felt himself as an integral part of them, and they of him. It was inconceivable to him for harm to befall his people, because that would threaten his own existence.
Chassidic teachings explain that Moses used the expression “on foot” because just as the feet carry the person to where he needs to go, the Jewish people carry Moses to levels that he could not have reached alone. True, he was their head, their leader. Nevertheless, in the merit of the people Moses' strengths increased and he reached higher and higher levels.
There was a sort of cycle in the relationship between Moses and the people: Every time Moses ascended a to a higher spiritual level, he brought the people along with him, and every time the people advanced spiritually, they elevated Moses. Thus, Moses' spiritual accomplishments were inextricably tied to the advancement of the people. Without them, Moses could not carry out the Divine will, the purpose of his existence.
In every generation, there is a leader like Moses, whose relationship with his people is based on this foundation: he serves as the head and the people are the feet. This is not intended as a slight to the people; on the contrary, the leader could never accomplish his goals without the dedication and efforts of the people. The spiritual success of the generation depends on a healthy relationship between the leader, the teacher, the Rebbe of the generation, and the people.
We have been very fortunate in our generation to be led by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. He had the insight and vision to see that the Messianic Era is upon us, and gave us the tools to bring this long-awaited future into actuality. We are the generation of the "footsteps of Moshiach." Led by our head, our leader, we will progress step after step and finally reach our ultimate goal.